Friday, August 20, 2010

Embracing social networking to drive business results

With 400 million active Facebook users and 80 million registered LinkedIn users, the need for social networking and interaction has secured and validated its place in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Moreover, large-scale economic uncertainties fundamentally change the drivers that attract, motivate and retain employees, including the need to perhaps socialize more during challenging times.

This viral trend, however, has posed an interesting challenge for organizations that want to capitalize on the potential business benefits of social networking and collaboration without making work so ‘social’ that employee performance suffers. Organizations therefore have to optimize the mix of non business-related social networking -- with business and job performance-related social collaboration … as these two clearly bleed into each other and can’t easily be de-coupled. A purely social contact today can become a critical business or job-relevant contact tomorrow, and someone who is not a contact today can become a social or business contact tomorrow.

Most large companies now have ‘social computing’ policy guidelines in an effort to ensure that company-sponsored (through technology platforms) social networking doesn’t cross over to ‘diminishing returns’ in the form of minimal company benefit – or worse, company liability. As an example of appropriate social computing policy, employees should be advised that when they discuss the company or company-related matters, they should write in the first person; and also make it clear that they are speaking for themselves.

In the midst of all the excitement being generated by social networking, and particularly, its potential to drive business benefits when guided appropriately (e.g., social learning, social collaboration-infused innovation, social networking as a driver of productivity, retention and engagement), I will offer-up one tip for organizations looking at the Talent Management Suite market:

You may recall when “embedded analytics” was being claimed by nearly every HCM solutions vendor, even when it might have been more aspirational than a reality. Well, “embedded social collaboration” may be a quasi-universal vendor claim that is at that same stage. Trust but verify!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What to call HR Technology implementations to increase odds of success

I’ve ended my brief hiatus from blogging in which I was heads-down on white papers and other HR technology projects. I will try to get back to roughly a bi-weekly blogging schedule.

As the title of this blog post implies, I feel a change is in order with respect to how HR technology implementations are labeled, marketed and positioned within organizations. Whether we want to admit it or not, many HR technology implementations do not live up to expectations – either in terms of empirically measured ROI, or anecdotally reported perceptions of the new system or module. While there are many useful articles and blog posts about causal factors, perhaps we haven’t adequately considered the need to simply call these very strategic initiatives something else. Why?

For one thing, there’s a legacy here that cannot be ignored so easily … a few decades of HR systems being owned by the HR function and designed more from an administrative, compliance or transaction-processing perspective. Consequently, line managers (the true stewards of Talent Management) didn’t exactly view the announcement of a new HR system as cause for celebration. Even Integrated Talent Management Suites have not always proven to be so integrated or designed from a “what’s in it for the user?” perspective.

Compounding this challenging legacy is the fact that the terms “next generation HR system” … “new HR system” … and/or “new Talent Management system” have been so broadly used within customer organizations – often before they were ready to materially change business outcomes -- that they’ve lost much of their meaning and ability to change attitudes toward broad adoption.

There’s perhaps yet another reason to call HR technology implementations something else – the words "technology implementation." Most astute observers of large-scale, complex technology implementations would probably agree that for every technology implementation considered widely successful, there is one considered a train-wreck. So, there you have it -- the double whammy syndrome of labeling these initiatives “HR Technology implementations.”

A logical candidate for re-naming these projects might be more reflective of what they really are --- or should be – “Foundational Change Management Initiatives" ... in which technology will be a major component. These endeavors are truly aimed at changing hearts and minds about how people should be managed for competitive advantage, using technology as an enabler. This is an "inside-out" transformation, brought about by such techniques as being open about perceived take-aways (and offsets), identifying and converting those “on-the-fence”, promoting major benefits at the individual stakeholder level, etc. The most successful change management efforts are designed to impact at a very personal level, not at the level of how processes will be better or more efficient for the organization.

Every time I hear about an HR technology implementation to optimize and enable HR/Talent Management processes, I quickly ascribe 3 things to the effort: (1) the change management dimension has been short-changed once again; (2) an overly simplistic, process-centric view of Talent Management / Human Capital Management which will likely prevent holistic thinking about the Talent Agenda; and (3) no more than a 50/50 probability of resounding success due to (1) and (2).